‘Lives put at risk’ after Cookstown fire station gets 19 hoax calls

Almost 20 hoax calls have been made to Cookstown fire station
Almost 20 hoax calls have been made to Cookstown fire station

Fire chiefs have warned that lives are being put at risk by the high number of malicious hoax calls made to Cookstown Fire Station.

Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service revealed that over the past five years there have been 19 hoax calls recorded at the town’s fire station.

The situation was worse at Dungannon fire station where 55 hoax calls were made over the same period.

Whereas firefighters in the neighbouring Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency dealt with a total of 23 such calls last year, one of the highest figures for Northern Ireland, fire crews in Mid Ulster had only four such incidents.

The Mid Ulster figures have been dropping dramatically from a high of 19 in 2011, to the lowest level in Northern Ireland. All four of the hoax calls for the constituency were made to Cookstown station.

Fire crews in Belfast South responded to the highest number of malicious calls, with 80, followed by West Belfast with 49.

Across Northern Ireland, there have been 442 hoaxes in the past year, a decrease from 488 the year before and 524 in 2012/13, the NIFRS said.

However group commander Mark Smyth warned that all prank calls can delay attendance at a real emergency.

“We may be the target but it’s the hoax callers who are the ‘fools’ and their local community who are the victims,” he explained. The number of attacks on fire crews has also been on a downward trend, from 178 in 2013 to 118 in 2014 and 110 over the past year.

“As far as attacks on our crews go, we enjoy great support from the vast majority of the local community”, he added.

The number of prank calls made to local fire stations increase during school holiday periods as do the number of attacks on fire crews, according to the service.